There are probably lots of reasons Denmark regularly comes in at the top of measurements of national happiness. We could point at a cradle to grave social safety net, one of the best education systems on the planet, a culture that values equality and social justice, has one of lowest disparity levels anywhere and, of course, all that fabulous design… most annoying of all, they’re not even smug about it! (Well, maybe just a little)
Or it could just be hygge.
Hygge is a simple concept that is hard to explain. Fundamentally, it’s all about hearth, home, friends, loved ones and finding happiness in the small, simple acts of daily life. Think of those little moments of blissful contentment that sneak up unbidden. That perfect first sip from your favourite teacup. Your fuzzy slippers. The crunch of toast.
Or look around at your friends and family gathered for a meal. People you like and love all together around the table, suffused with the gentle glow of happiness. Hygge is a state of mind, deliberately cultivated in a difficult and challenging world.
A significant part of the concept revolves around the creation of a physical space that is hygglig. Think cosy, comfortable, warm and candlelit. A mug of glogg in front of the fire after a day of cross country skiing; (not a lot of mountains in Denmark) resting in a room that feels safe and secure, with you and yours snuggled under an afghan while the wind howls outside.
Hygge is also about cultivating a bit of amnesia about the trials and tribulations of the world. It might be a bit of a coping mechanism, an anodyne for the hectic day.
To be hygglig means to put aside the seriousness of life, sing a song, cultivate a little low key bliss and enjoy the moment. We all know the big bad world is out there, we’re just taking a time out!
The Danes and Norwegians aren’t the only ones who get the concept, though, they just appear to work harder at it! The Dutch have their “Geselligheid” the Germans speak of “Gemütlichkeit“… They all translate into “coziness” in English, but in these Northern European cultures the concept is somehow bigger. Perhaps cozy mindfulness?
Deutsch: Gemütlichkeit, Gastlichkeit und Frohsinn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Regardless of how we try to translate it, if there ever was a time to introduce a little hygge into our lives, this is it!